Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2001

What is a church?

November 29, 2001


To the editor:

When is a church not a church?

Controversy over the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in part stems from confusion over the status of the Center. Is it a church, or is it a church- sponsored (religious) educational center? We get both stories, and Rev. Krische continues to assert he has a right to continue expansion because "Churches have a right to be in single-family neighborhoods." Neighbors have no say. But is it a church?

The fact is that everyone continues to refer to it as a center. It was built in a pre-existing residential neighborhood as a religious educational center, not a church. This remains its stated function and title. Now the center wants to add 16,000 square feet, "include a lecture hall, library, computer center, offices, etc." Is this a church? Would it fit your residential neighborhood? If expansion is necessary, why not move the center to a largely non-residential area such as Stewart Avenue? It also wants to add a two-level parking garage but does not address the issue of illegally parked cars that virtually close Crescent and Engel roads on Sunday mornings. Is this a residential function or structure?

Are planning restrictions different for a church and for a religious educational center? Why can there be no comments before the planning commission? How can a residential neighborhood be protected from non-complying uses? Is religion a justification for doing what you want? How will the city commission respond to the issue of protecting a neighborhood that many of us have spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars improving and once spent significant sums in legal fees to hold the center to some reasonable size from its original plans? Why is there no agreement to limit expansion? The Catholic Church continues to buy homes in the area and remove them from the tax rolls. Is this for even greater expansion in the future? What role does planning have relative to the asserted "rights" of a religion? Meanwhile, neighbors continue to pay increased taxes to support the increased use of roads and services by the center and its parts.

Robert W. McColl,


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